A couple weeks back I was confessing to a friend how I was becoming overly critical of certain people in my life. My expectations in these relationships were not being met and I was continually voicing my opinion and complaints on the matter. My friend reached back and started digging in his bag. At that point, I knew I was in trouble.
He brought out a small 40 page book entitled, "The Importance of Forgiveness" by John Arnott. "Here, take this and read it." My immediate knee jerk reaction was to kindly decline the offer. "Hey, thanks for thinking of me, but I don't think forgiveness is my struggle. I'm struggling with having a critical spirit."
"I know", my friend persisted. "It addresses that very topic in here. Read it." By this time, the book was now being held in both my hands and I had a strange feeling that it was not coincidental that my friend happened to have it on him that day.
As I started to read through the book, the Holy Spirit began to confirm what my friend had sensed was going on in my life. I was harboring unforgiveness towards these other people to whom I was being critical. Furthermore, I was being judgmental towards them and disobeying the clear teachings of Jesus, "Do not judge" (Luke 6:37).
This was a hard reality for me to accept because in my mind I had concluded, "Sure, I've forgiven them. Surely, I'm not one to hold a grudge. I'm bigger than that." But the evidence was becoming clearer and my conviction was growing stronger.
So, one morning I brought this issue to the Lord asking if I had any unforgiveness in my heart. A resounding "Yes" rose up in my spirit. I then asked the Lord, "So, what do I do about it." My expectation was for the Lord to direct me to write out every offense and forgive every individual wrong. I thought that it would be a long and arduous process of bringing up old memories and forgiving each, one at a time.
Instead, to my surprise, the only words that came to my mind were simply this:
"Write a blank check."
These words needed no further explanation. I understood clearly what the Lord was speaking to my heart. He wanted me to forgive all the offenses I had felt from the past, anything greiving me now and any potential hurt in the future.
It seemed like a pretty tall order at first, but what soon became evident to me was that the Lord didn't want me to take time to stew over all the misunderstandings of the past and bring back up every offense. He simply wanted me to bury them all in the sea of forgiveness. In fact, it was probably my own flesh that would have preferred to bring up every individual offense allowing myself one last chance to meditate on how wrong the other parties had been. I wanted to play judge again.
In following the Lord's lead, I drew a fake check in my notebook and wrote under "To" the names of the people who offended me. Under "Amount" I left the space blank. And under "Memo" I wrote "Every offense". I then wrote out Ephesians 4:31-32 on the check which reads, "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."
Finally, I signed the check with my full name and then confirmed this decision to forgive in prayer and transferred the entire debt over to the cross of Jesus Christ. I sat quietly before the Lord considering this transaction and asked, "What's next?"
Instantly, four simple words rose up in my spirit, "Write yourself a check." Again without any further explanation, I understood what the Lord was inviting me to do. He was extending the invitation for me to forgive myself for all of my own shortcomings, sins and failures of the past, present and even the future. He was inviting me to not only be forgiven of my sins, but to forgive myself for them.
With these four words, "Write yourself a check" resounding in my heart, I began to write out a prayer to Jesus to forgive myself for every act of my will, every mistake, every sin and transgression and to choose to condemn myself no longer.
I can't describe the levity, joy and freedom that came from this exercise. Amazingly, my relationships with those who had offended me changed immediately. My criticalness and judgements were no longer in the way of my ability to love them. And personally I felt relieved of the weight that comes from self-condemnation.
Friend, don't wait any longer to experience the freedom that comes through forgiveness. Start by receiving the full pardon for your own sins which Jesus has paid for on the cross. Based on Jesus death for you, choose to forgive yourself. Then, choose to extend complete forgiveness to everyone who has ever offended you.
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:37-38)